Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Writing Mood Ring




By: Deirdre Verne

When I first started writing, I found I could only be creative when I was happy. Not mildly happy. I’m talking ecstatically happy -- running through a field of sunflowers in a wispy summer dress type of happy. For the words to come, I had to feel bubbly and light. It didn’t take me long to realize that this state of euphoria, although wonderful, is rare. Given this strict criteria, I calculated that it would take me a decade to crank out a three-line haiku.

In the name of progress, I’ve since learned to write through my moods, good and bad. I’ve also mastered the art of writing while sick or injured. This includes a stint recovering from back-surgery and then a broken ankle. After all that, I can say one thing for sure: no matter how badly I feel when I start writing, I most certainly feel better when I’ve finished for the night. In fact, if I ever want to feel like I’ve run through a field of sunflowers, all I need to do is create that feeling on paper. And if I’m not entirely thrilled with what I’ve written, I know there’s a library full of books to take me to my field of flowers, imagined into being by other writers just like me.

Deirdre Verne (Lower Westchester, NY) is a college professor who is currently the curriculum chair of the marketing program at Westchester Community College. Previously, she held senior marketing positions at Time, Inc. Her latest novel, Drawing Conclusions will be available through Midnight Ink in Febuary, 2015.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Fiction, Gratitude, and Real Change

 
Like most of you, I've begun preparations for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season. I'm also working like mad to get ready for the January 8th launch of A Killer Retreat. All things considered, it seems appropriate for this blog article to focus on gratitude. 

I’m grateful for so many things: my sweet puppy-girl Tasha, my supportive wonder-spouse Marc, the cool sweetness of the cherry/beet smoothie I drank for breakfast, the warm, soft snuggle socks wrapping my feet. I rarely, however, remember to be grateful for my admittedly saggy mattress, heat I can turn on with the flip of a thermostat, or a safe place to shower every morning.  I take all of that for granted.
 
Many people aren’t nearly so lucky.  

Like George, the murder victim in my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose.
 
George is a completely fictional character, as is the Dollars for Change newspaper that he sells.  His story, however, was inspired by vendors of a similar newspaper in Seattle called Real Change.
 
I’ve always been impressed by the tenets of Real Change.  Real Change publishes stories about the challenges of the homeless in Seattle while employing those same homeless individuals as sales people.  The organization doesn’t offer the homeless a handout; it offers them hand up: the opportunity to earn money while helping promote true social change. 
 
I have befriended many of their vendors.  Some have worked for the paper for well over a decade.   Others get the help they need and move on. One striking woman has not only pulled herself out of life on the street, she has also become an effective advocate for those who are still homeless.  Even though her situation has changed, she knows there is still much more work to be done.
 
It’s easy to walk by and ignore those less fortunate--more comfortable not to look.  But each one of those individuals is a unique human being with an often tragic backstory.  Given the right circumstances, any one of us could find ourselves living on the street next to them.
 
In the opening scene of Murder Strikes a Pose, yoga teacher Kate tries to get rid of the vendor hawking papers outside her yoga studio’s front door. Not because she’s an uncaring person, but because doing so would make her life significantly easier.  Lucky for Kate, George and his crazy German shepherd Bella refuse to leave. Inviting George and Bella into her life will soon change Kate, in every way for the better.  May we all be as lucky.
 
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, filled with abundance, joy, gratitude, and compassion.  May all of our actions help promote real change.
 
Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries. I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.  My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

For more information, visit me online at http://tracyweberauthor.com/ and http://wholelifeyoga.com/

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November Releases!


By: Maegan Beaumont

Check out these exciting new reads!



Bloody Politics
By: Maggie Sefton 
A Molly Malone Mystery #3 
"A strong protagonist."—LIBRARY JOURNAL



 Hell on Wheels
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian 
The Odelia Grey Mysteries #9
“Action-filled . . . Jaffarian neatly pulls all the plot lines together for a satisfying outcome."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY




“Trapline rings as true as the beautiful mountains and valleys that frame this exciting, tense drama of today’s Colorado.”—Manuel Ramos, award-winning author of
Desperado: A Mile High Noir






"Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series."—LIBRARY JOURNAL











Maegan Beaumont is the author of the award-winning Sabrina Vaughn thriller series. The third installment, Promises to Keep, will be released in the late summer of 2015 by Midnight Ink.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very Best Thing




By: Maegan Beaumont

This past weekend, I attended my very first Bouchercon... and it was wonderful. Here is a list of some of the great things that happened to me:
1) I met loads of my fellow MInkers. I liked them and I think a few might like me back.
2) I had the opportunity to develop some fledgling friendships (I'm looking at you, Shannon Baker!).
3) I sat in on a last minute and decidedly awesome panel called WOMEN KILL AT MYSTERY. An entire hour dedicated to singing the praises of unsung (and undersung) mystery writers by their contemporaries. It was hangs down, the best hour I spent at B'con.
4) I was invited to dinner by my very good friend, Les Edgerton (who is a terrific Noir writer, you should check him out). We haven't seen each other in a while and it was so nice to see him again--I really love that guy!
5) Our very own Catriona McPherson took home an Anthony for best paperback!
6) I was invited to participate in a panel called EXPERIENCING FEAR with some of my most favorite writers. 

All of these things were fantastic but there was one thing that happened that I have decided was the very best thing that has happened to me as a writer so far...

During my panel (and I'm sitting shoulder to shoulder with Alison Gaylin and Alex Sokoloff--a couple of heavy hitters, for sure), I notice a little girl in the audience. She's about 10 and she's with her mom and I think to myself, what in the world is she doing here? We're talking about some pretty gritty stuff. I hope she's not freaked out...

And then she raises her hand and announces to the room that she's currently writing a novel about a serial killer and proceeds to ask some of the most thought-provoking and intelligent questions I have ever been asked. I was floored by this young woman's confidence and curiosity. 

But that's not the very best thing...

The very best thing is that after the panel, as everyone is filing out, this young writer approaches the panel... and asks me (ME!) writing advice.

I came down off the platform and sat with her for a few minutes. We talked about writing and I gave her my email address and invited her to write to me. I didn't ask for her name or for a picture--because, hello! Minor!--but I really hope she writes to me. At her age I was a writer but I didn't have the self-confidence to proclaim it to the world and I certainly didn't have the self-confidence to ask another (grown-up) writer for advice. 

Young writer, whoever you are, you are awesome! Thank you for being my very best thing--I hope I helped you as much as you helped me.


Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Never Put Off Until Tomorrow...

by Shannon Baker

I had a colonoscopy this week.

The only remarkable thing about it was how totally unremarkable it was. Sure, I got a little hungry. And I had a kind of queasy hour or so before I got into the flow, but in the grand scheme of things, it was much less painful than sitting through August in Osage County.

And yet, if you swept all the annoyance at being harassed by my health care providers, the dread of having to do it, the effort of putting it off, the bone-deep belief that the test would reveal nothing but the cutest colon, and the nagging of caring friends, you’d see a pile of negativeness far larger and lumpier than the mild inconvenience of the actual procedure.
Which brings me to marketing. As it would.
Much like my conviction that the colonoscopy would be torture, I’ve convinced myself that marketing is the Devil. It takes time. That’s time I could be writing. It’s mysterious and often times ineffective. Yet, everyone agrees you have to do something.
No one knows what magic cocktail of direct mail, personal appearances, blog tours, paid advertising, and giveaways will net that intoxicating high of sales. Unless, of course, you crack the BookBub code and then you can retire on royalties.
I’ve handled marketing in about the same dysfunctional manner as going in for the colonoscopy. I’ve denied the need to do it. I’ve avoided it at all costs. I’ve skirted around it and touched on it half-heartedly, sort of like going in for yearly checkups but not making the total commitment.
I made lists of books stores to contact or reviewers to query. And put off calling because *whine* cold calling is scary. So instead of doing, I procrastinated and worried, then I climbed on the I Suck Train for not doing what I should have done.
Well, kids, this is where I get off. A few months ago a friend, Master Marketer Julie Kazimer, convinced me I need to do it. Much like the impending retirement of my patron (husband) nudged me into getting the colonoscopy while it was still covered by insurance, I realized the time has come for me to jump into the marketing fray.
So I did. I started making lists and then forcing myself to make the calls and write the emails and follow up.  Here’s what I discovered:
Just as the unremarkableness of the colonoscopy, setting up book signings and arranging a blog tour is not that big of a deal. Sure, it takes some time. But it’s not like someone is bludgeoning me with a fence post.  There is surprisingly little physical pain involved in phone calls and emails.
 
Book signing that didn’t hurt. With William Kent Krueger and Sean Dolittle

I’ve even forced myself to teach a few workshops and do some public speaking. And there was absolutely no prescription pain medication involved. Although I might or might not have self-medicated after the fact, in a purely congratulatory fashion.
As Granddad used to say, (sure, someone else made it famous but Granddad did say it a lot so I’m going with possession being 9/10ths and all that)  “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  
It might sell a book or two and it keeps you off that Crazy Train.


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Long and Winding Road



Keith Raffel here for the first time in a while.

I live in Palo Alto, California and worked in high tech for a quarter century. That makes me a Silicon Valley guy.

What does that mean?

That means I’m almost always willing to try something new. If it pays off, fine. If not, well, that’s fine, too. I’ll just try something else.

Getting into novel-writing was something new. I was a little bored at my job so I signed up for a mystery-writing class at UC Berkeley Extension. When my work life heated up, I threw a half-finished manuscript into a drawer. A few years later I pulled it out and finished it. I found an agent who sold Dot Dead to Midnight Ink. Twenty months after signing the deal the book came out. Midnight Ink bought my next book, too. (I am skipping over the trials and tribulations of querying agents and publishers – another time.)

The reviews on my first two books were encouraging, and the second even showed up on a national bestseller list. Okay, good. Now it was time to see if I could support myself at this writing gig: what I was making with a traditional publisher wasn’t going to cut it. So I decided to try something new. I self-published my next two books, Drop By Drop and A Fine and Dangerous Season, and put them up on Amazon and BN.com. Somewhat to my surprise, I sold more copies and made more money than I had on my first two books. Another few steps down the road to making a living.

Amazon has its own publishing arm for crime fiction called Thomas and Mercer who were impressed enough with A Fine and Dangerous Season’s sales to offer to buy rights to it and bring it out under its own imprint. Sure, why not give it a try? It was a great ride. On one glorious day this past March, I saw my book ranked as the #5 seller on all of Amazon.com. But I still wasn’t making enough to support myself, let alone pay for another two kids’ worth of college tuition.

So I was ready to try something new to move the ball down the road. I decided to raise money via Kickstarter, the crowd-sourcing site, for my fifth novel, Temple Mount. Why? Two reasons. First, I wanted to get buy-in from my fans. There’s an old Silicon Valley saying that when you eat a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken participates, the pig commits. I wanted commitment from my fans (but I did want to keep them alive, too). And I think I got it. They were co-publishing right along with me and had a stake in the venture. They’ve helped the spread the word and 50 of them even helped edit the book. (Paying for the privilege to edit? That made me feel like Tom Sawyer.) I’ve been blown away by their enthusiasm and generosity. Second, the money raised spurred me to try something new, or maybe old, to publicize Temple Mount. Starting next week we’re running an ad for it on Bay Area cable stations. (You can see the ad below.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed on how it does.

So here I am, getting closer to my goal of making a living as a writer, but still not quite there. When I started at this game, I went the only way I could: signing with a traditional publisher. Now an author can also self-publish, publish via a publisher with a new model like Thomas and Mercer or Polis or Brash, or even crowd-publish. Any one of them might be the right one for an aspiring author or even an old hack like me. It just depends what she or he wants.

I do feel lucky to be writing in a time where authors have choices.

Cheers,
Keith 



Before turning to writing full-time, Keith Raffel watched over the CIA, supported himself at the racetrack, founded a software company, taught writing to Harvard freshmen, ran for Congress, and sold DNA sequencing to medical researchers. He became a published author in 2006 with Dot Dead, which the New York Times said was “worthy of a Steve Jobs keynote presentation.” These days he can usually be found tapping his laptop’s keys and power-drinking green tea at a cafĂ© around the corner from his home in California’s Silicon Valley. His latest novel Temple Mount ("a terrific battle of wit and wills" -Steve Berry) came out this month.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dying for What's Next!

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know & Dying for the Past
 
I did it. I finished. Tuck solved another case and I wrote “The End” on Dying to Tell, the third book of Oliver Tucker’s case files— dubbed “The Ghost Gumshoe” by Midnight Ink, my publisher. Dying to Tell was a killer, no pun intended. The hardest thing I did in a very long time was hit “send” on the email that whisked Dying to Tell off to my agent, Kimberley Cameron.
 
It was painful. The email sat in my draft box for hours before I could muster the courage to send it. No, I wasn’t concerned about the book—my test readers loved it.  It was about The End, plain and simple.
 
You see, a little more than a year and a half ago, Midnight Ink bought Dying to Know—my fourth novel and first to be published—along with two sequels. Dying for the Past, the first sequel, releases January 8, 2015, and Dying to Tell, the second sequel, releases January 2016. Selling Dying to Know as a series thrilled me—and terrified me—and thrilled me some more. And, for the past year-plus, I wrote those two sequels night and day. Turning in Dying for the Past was easy. “The End” and on to Dying to Tell. No problem.
 
Then, a strange thing happened around page 300 of Dying to Tell.  A ball of “oh crap” filled my gut every time I sat at my keyboard. I found reason after reason to rewrite chapters and refine plot twists. This character changed, that character died. Then undid it all and started again. In the end, the final draft looked identical to the first—except I had languished over it for an extra two months.
 
As I neared the final chapters of Dying to Tell,  I was indeed dying—dying for the next story, the next book deal, the next bit of proof that my work was good enough for the world to read. Dying to Know, not a book I ever meant to publish, gave me a huge confidence boost when it first landed me my agent, Kimberley, and then ended up being my first published book of four at that time. Success! Someone besides my three Labs thought my work was worthy!
 
And the reality smacked me in the face. The series was written. The contract all but fulfilled. All there was to do was wait for the launch dates and try to build more readers. Not that all that is easy, mind you, but the real work was done. And, even before I typed “The End,” I missed Tuck and Hercule. And, with that, I worried about what was ahead.
 
On page 325 of Dying to Tell, I realized any evidence of talent I might have was not yet in hand. It would be the next book. It was the next sale. The next series. Tuck’s adventures were a great start. But was it a fluke? Had my agent and publisher had one-too-many the night before and saw something in my work that wasn’t there? (Gasp, eerie music, another gasp.)
 
Panic. Does that make me nuts? A defeatist? No. I think it makes me humble (yes, children of mine, I am humble now and then). I think my fear of failure is normal. In particular, after the first book sale. You wonder if it’ll ever happen again. You wonder if anyone will remember your name, your books, or your damn Facebook page.
 
You just wonder.
 
I think many authors face this—that scary place between your first book sale and your next. Writing books is easy—well, sort of—but finding success is not. Success comes not just from fans, readers, critics, and the occasional atta boy. To publishers, it’s mostly about commercial success. Sales. And, let me tell you, selling books is painful, slow, and often a climb that breaks your spirit. It’s tiny little steps—a book here, a few books there… a slow, almost endless quest to build an audience that will get you notice and more book contracts.
 
So you go on. Signings. Book fairs. Monstermania (yes, I went there and had a blast) and any place you can get yourself invited to. You Facebook, blog, blog some more, take out ads, take out more ads, and find every inventive way you can to get your book in someone’s hands. You will do whatever it takes…
 
And, when you ask why, it’s easy—How bad do you want to be an author?
 
Bad. Sinfully bad. Sell my soul and refuse to pay taxes bad. (No, IRS, I do pay my taxes.)
 
And, for me, the fear of failure is—wait for it—palpable. I finished Dying to Tell and began to worry about the next book, the next plot, and above all, the next book deal. Since selling Dying to Know, I’ve penned two other novels in addition to Tuck’s two sequels. New Sins for Old Scores, another murder mystery with a paranormal twist and a historical subplot, is with Kimberley trying to find a home in the market. The Killing of Tyler Quinn is a more traditional story about a small town journalist who returns from the Gulf War after disappearing for years. Quinn’s best friend is found murdered on the evening Quinn reappears—his mysterious disappearance and the murder too coincidental for the town—he’s the prime suspect. The question is—will either of these sell? Will they find a home in this ever-tightening market?
 
What if they don’t? Will I perish in the land of the unknown authors—a crowded, lonely place where blogs and Facebook are your only comfort?
  
Kimberley says be patient, relax, my career has just started. And I trust her. But, deep down, hidden behind the thrill of having three books published and my past swashbuckling around the world chasing terrorists and spies is the woosie-boy in me. Can I do this? Will I sell another book? Can Wilfred stop the evil Dr … no, no, that’s a soap I watched the other day.
 
Nuts? No. I think people like me—self-driven madmen—measure ourselves not by what’s behind us but by what’s in front. You’re only as good as your next book. You’re only as loved as your next review. You’re only as talented as those weird voices in your head say. Okay, I’m nuts.
 
Now, given my fear of failure, one might wonder how I keep from leaping off my porch to my bitter end. Well, my porch is only two feet off the ground. But, for real, it’s the occasional email or random fan who drops me a note or stops by a signing just to tell me how much they loved the book and can’t wait for the next—and what else am I writing … when will it be out? I’m just getting started and I’ve only had a few dozen of such emails and conversations, but each one is a thrill for me.
 
Nuts? Hell yes I am—to the bone. But, that has nothing to do with writing books.
Warning: The following is a cheap promotional announcement…
Don’t miss the sale… Amazon has Dying to Know on sale for Kindles… $1.99 between 11/7 and 11/23!
 
Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his eight novels and is currently available in bookstores and online. Dying for the Past, the first of two sequels, will be released in January 2015—available now for pre-orders. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and investigations. Learn about his world at www.tjoconnor.com and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TjOConnor.Author.
 
 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Switching Minds... Er, Gears

--by Linda O. Johnston

November 1 was the deadline for my second Superstition Mystery manuscript.  I sent it in on time--on October 31, in fact.  Halloween seemed to be an appropriate day for a Superstition Mystery.

Midnight Ink has already held a meeting about it even though it's not likely to be published until around a year from now,.  It'll be called KNOCK ON WOOD, which is quite appropriate to the story.  I also received an initial representation of the cover--very cute.

Will I stop writing till I need to start the manuscript for number three?  Not hardly! 

First, Midnight Ink is already starting to promote the initial book in the next mystery series I'm writing that they will publish: BITE THE BISCUIT, in the Barkery and Biscuits series.  Its release date is May 8, and the next book I'll write for Midnight Ink will be the second in that series.  Fortunately, my deadline for that one isn't till June, because I also write romances for a couple of Harlequin lines and have a February 1 deadline for the next one.

How do I switch gears from one mystery series to another?  Or, even more challenging, from mystery to romance and back? 

I admit it's a challenge.

But, hey, I like challenges.  At least now I don't have to switch from creating characters and a world and a murder one minute, to creating or negotiating real estate contracts the next.  I did that for many years when I was actively practicing law, too.  And in case I haven't mentioned it on InkSpot before, I always say that writing contracts is just another form of fiction.  But I'm officially inactive from the law now, a full-time writer.

I may be a bit nuts taking on so many writing deadlines and in different genres, but nearly everyone who writes has another life, too, so we all have to get used to switching one part of our mind off and switching another on.

So, it's time, mind of mine.  Switch!  And get ready for me to switch you in another direction soon.

And since I write the Superstition Mysteries, be warned that my fingers are crossed that you obey me... fast and often and always.